Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fear and popcorn. On Expelled, part II

Sheesh, days of reaction to Expelled stewing in my brain and I still can't distill it down into a blog entry that isn't book-length.

FIRST, apologies for any missing names, or inexact words of speakers I quote. Each scientist interviewed was name-captioned at least once, but I wasn't taking notes in the dark theater, and they were not always identified each time they appeared. The website covers a few but not all. I doubt if I will spend another $6 (bargain matinée), though I might rent Expelled later for another look. I'm trying to be vigilant in my quotes and represent them accurately.

I wonder if my fellow believers really know what they're getting into, when they ask that Intelligent Design be taught to students?

The film at first seems to make a reasonable request. Ben Stein walks all over the world in his suit and sneakers, interviewing scientists. The film time he gives to all his interviewees, on both sides, is fair. He doesn't edit his "opponents" to make them look stupid. Occasionally they fumble the ball, and I can't blame Stein for using the footage. I'd use it too.

He talks to scientists who claim to have been ousted from teaching positions for such seemingly mild transgressions as mentioning the existence of the ID point of view.

If they really get fired for such mild acknowledgements that ID exists, then that's obviously out of bounds. But Stein doesn't tell us the facts of their cases. I'm not saying they all are guilty, all I'm saying is the film didn't put that to rest.

Then there's another very reasonable statement from Dr. Richard Sternberg. I thought, he says, that science was free to ask any question and then follow the research wherever it leads.

It should be. No argument from me, but as the film progresses, it becomes clear that this is not what Stein or his pro-ID interviewees really want.

The specious equation of Darwin's theory with Nazi atrocities (discussed in my first post about Expelled) was a big mistake on Stein's part, and should be resoundingly denounced by Christians everywhere. Dehumanization of other races or the "unfit" has existed throughout human history, it is not something Darwin caused or advocated.

Darwin did state that:
"At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world." - Darwin, Descent, vol. I, 201. [Source: "Quote Mine Project" Scroll down to quote 2.10]

For a knowledgeable view of the issue, Richard Weikart, author of From Darwin to Hitler, offers this piece on his website.

I maintain that the use of Nazi extermination in Stein's film to vilify Darwinism requires equating genocide advocacy with the theory that the Nazis hijacked and mutated from a benign cell into a cancer. It's inaccurate and wrong to do so.

It indicates to me that a fair hearing for ID isn't what ID proponents want. They want Darwinism vilified. If science departments are acting paranoid and ousting any professor who whispers "ID," they're beating a dandelion with a tire iron, but the hidden ID agenda to vilify evolution makes their reaction, NOT justified, but understandable.

See, the real controversy isn't about advanced-level Origins research, either in astrophysics or evolution. The trouble is that the controversy is about us commonfolk. It's about what we should be taught. Stein mocks the nanny mentality with an ancient film clip in which some blowhard says, "People can't make decisions for themselves." But in the realm of advanced science, is that an entirely crazy statement? I'm not equipped to evaluate DNA research or theoretical physics. I took my last science class as a high school sophomore. 1969-70. Yeah, really.

Time out to warn any unfamiliar readers dropping by that I am an avowed Christian. I feel quite certain that there's a creator God.

But Darwin doesn't bother me. His theory has been modified through much new knowledge in the past 150 years, and if we let facts pull us forward, then any untruths in it will fall on their own. So God is a fact? Great, then we need not worry about any line of inquiry that follows facts, right?

I fear that there are a lot of believers who hear Richard Dawkins and others say that their scientific journey killed their belief in God. Then the believers malign the science, thinking "If it's creating atheism, it must be wrong." The film runs with this.

Well I say: if anyone thinks that premature atheist conclusions formed by individuals mean that the science which brought the conclusions about is evil, then they're thinking way too small. And drawing a premature conclusion that there's hard data supporting an Intelligent Designer at this point is just as wrong. There could someday be proof, but if we make a claim that later gets knocked down, that can even do greater damage to faith.

One pro-ID interviewee whose name I missed came right out with it: Maybe, he said, we're going about research the wrong way. Traditionally one investigates and eventually the results lead one to forming a world view. But maybe we need to start with a world view and then do the research.

Wrong turn. The answer comes at the end, not the beginning. We can't know where God ends and physics and chemistry take over, until we follow the whole scientific trail back to it. We're way way early on that trail.

Here's how it looks to me. Human learning is like building an arch, and the answer to the God question is the keystone. Placing either atheism or ID in the classroom, considering humanity's current level of knowledge, is like trying to place a keystone without completing the piers and the arch-stones. You can't build an arch backwards.


And that is why the insistence of believers that science courses address that issue -- lay a keystone right now -- is out of order, out of line, absurd. Any teacher who is claiming to understand and define the nature of that keystone is out of line, and yes, that goes for defining it as a godless scientific force, as well as for defining it as God. Either one deserves the to lose credibility, if he/she calls it anything other than an opinion. Its nature is way beyond our comprehension. When humanity is ready for that stone, it will be ready for us.

Illustration from: Winston's Cumulative Encyclopedia. Charles Morris, Editor-in-Chief. Philadelphia and Chicago : The John C. Winston Company, 1914. Vol. 1, s.v. "Arch," unpaged.


Christy said...

Great thoughts! I guess my question is do you really think they want Darwinism villified or exposed for some of its more extreme views? You didn't address the link between Darwin and Sanger/Planned Parenthood, and that link seems quite solid.

As a fellow believer, I, too, am just hunky-dory saying I don't know how things started and God could use whatever he wanted to start whatever he wanted started. But I do think it's unfair to label ID junk science when many of those labeling it as such haven't really given it a good look.

Does that make any sense?! I hope so!

Dann said...


As I've said in other places, I think the problem is that there are two positions that want to have the veneer of science as cover for their respective position that God/evolution doesn't exist. They aren't interested in the scientific process. They aren't interested in the investigation.

They are only interested in an answer they can use to argue theology.

No true scientist would ever declare that God does not exist based on evolutionary theory.

Most people of faith, IME, are open to the idea of a creationary process that takes more than a literal 24 hours to accomplish.

The problem comes when science is used as a cudgel either for or against religion.


Sherwood Harrington said...

Bravo, Ruth. Very, very well done, indeed. Thank you.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Thanks yall! Christy, i'm inspired to read up on that. And Sherwood - i thank you kindly. I'd add that some kudos ought to go to Dann for neatly summing it up in 7 sentences!

Jaakonpoika said...

The marriage laws were once erected not only in the Nazi Germany but also in the multicultural states of America upon the speculation that the mulatto was a relatively sterile and shortlived hybrid. The absence of blood transfusion between "white" and "colored races" was self evident (Hailer 1963, p. 52).

The first law on sterilization in US had been established in 1907 in Indiana, and 23 similar laws had been passed in 15 States and sterilization was practiced in 124 institutions in 1921 (Mattila 1996; Hietala 1985 p. 133; these were the times of IQ-tests under Gould's scrutiny in his Mismeasure of Man 1981). By 1931 thirty states had passed sterization laws in the US (Reilly 1991, p. 87).

So the American laws were pioneering endeavours. In Europe Denmark passed the first sterilization legislation in Europe (1929). Denmark was followed by Switzerland, Germany that had felt to the hands of Hitler and Gobineu, and other Nordic countries: Norway (1934), Sweden (1935), Finland (1935), and Iceland (1938) (Haller 1963, pp 21-57; 135-9; Proctor 1988, p. 97; Reilly 1991, p. 109). Seldom is it mentioned in the popular Finnish media, that the first outright race biological institution in the world was not established in Germany but in 1921 in Uppsala, Sweden (Hietala 1985, pp. 109). (I am not aware of the ethymology of the 'Up' of the ancient city from Plinius' Ultima Thule, however.) In 1907 the Society for Racial Hygiene in Germany had changed its name to the Internationale Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, and in 1910 Swedish Society for Eugenics (Sällskap för Rashygien) had become its first foreign affiliate (Proctor 1988, p. 17).

Hitler's formulation of the differences between the human races was affected by the brilliant sky-blue eyed Ernst Haeckel (Gasman 1971, p. xxii), praised and raised by Darwin. At the top of the unilinear progression were usually the "Nordics", a tall race of blue-eyed blonds. Haeckel's position on the Jewish question was assimilation, not yet an open elimination. But was it different only in degree, rather than kind?

In 1917 the immigration of "defective" groups was forbidden even in the United States by a law. In 1921 the European immigration was diminished to 3% based on the 1910 census.
Eventually, in the strategical year of 1924 the finest hour of eugenics had come and the fatal law was passed by Congress. It diminished immigration to 2% of the foreign-born from each country based on the 1890 census in order to preserve the "nordic" balance in population, and was hold through World War II until 1965 (Hietala 1985, p. 132).

Richard Lewontin writes:“The leading American idealogue of the innate mental inferiority of the working class was, however, H.H. Goddard, a pioneer of the mental testing movement, the discoverer of the Kallikak family,
and the administrant of IQ-tests to immigrants that found 83 % of the Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 87% of the the Russians to be feebleminded.” (1977, p. 13.) Finnish emmigrants put the cross on the box reserved for the "yellow" group (Kemiläinen 1993, p. 1930), until 1965.

Germany was the most scientifically and culturally advanced nation of the world upon opening the riddles at the close of the nineteenth century, and in 1933 the German people had not lived normal life for twenty years. And so Adolf Hitler did not need his revolution. He did not have to break the laws in Haeckel's country, in principle, but to constitute them.

Today, developmental biologists are anticipating legislation of laws that would define the do’s and dont’s. The legislation should not distract individual researchers from their personal awareness of responsibility. A permissive law merely defines the ethical minimum. The lesson is that a law is no substitute for morals and that dissidents should not be intimidated.

I am suspicious over the burial of the Kampf (Struggle). The idea of competition is innate in the modern society. It is the the opposite view in a 180 degree angle to the Judaeo-Christian ideal of agapee, that I personally cheriss. The latter sees free giving, altruism, benevolence and self sacrificing love as the beginning, motivation, and sustainer of the reality.
Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)

PS. Here's the final chapter scanned from an evolutionist scholar D. Gasman from his The Scientific Origins of National Socialism: Social Darwinism in Ernst Haeckel and the German Monist League (chapter 7, Gasman 1971)
I emphasize that Daniel Gasman is NOT an IDist or Idealist of any kind.

Mike said...

Was waiting for a moment to sum up things but then Dann did. Very good stuff, both of you. Having studied History and Philosophy of Science at a Catholic college, I can with some authority assert that there is no conflict between science and religion, but there is a conflict between atheism and those who reject science. Which is hardly surprising. And the subject is not well served by those who have studied one but not the other.

Jaakonpoika said...

Evolutionism was politically and religiously driven. (By religion, I mean the old worship of nature akin naturalism.) Evolutionism was a revolution, and revolutions are violent. It is anachronism to mehasize the idea of selection since evolutionism was sold by much harder claims, especially constant spontaneous generation of life from mud (moneras), inheritance of acquired characteristics, mutationism in leaps (hopeful monsters), linear model of human races - and especially recapitulation.

I mean, fertilizing human embryos for research purposes? Pipetting chimera embryos of humans and monkeys?!? Go, U Kingdom, go! Also the last round of eugenics started by cheapening the embryos.
Biochemist, drop-out (M.Sci. Master of Sciing)
I have collected about 200 quotes on the importance of Haeckel's frauds and recapitulation here: